Leeds Southbank Getting a Revamp

(Photo from : Southbankleeds.co.uk)

Chances are, you’ve rarely ventured to the industrial South of Leeds, perhaps only on a night out to Beaver Works or if you were blessed with the opportunity to live in Liberty Dock in first year. But this could all be set to change. City planners have proposed a new £350 million development in the Holbeck area, in the South of Leeds, which aims to double the size of the city centre by regenerating the equivalent of 250 football pitches of land. This would be comprised of a mix of office space, apartments, bars and restaurants; hopefully providing 35,000 jobs and 4000 new homes for the city!

A key goal for the South Bank development is to enhance the liveability of Leeds. Put simply, that means making the city a more comfortable place to live, work and move around. In order to achieve this, planners are proposing a new 3.5-hectare park to act as a central area for recreation and relaxation. In addition, as all Leeds residents know far too well, the roads here can often be unbearable. Luckily, there are plans afoot to transform the road network and provide a clear cycling and pedestrian network, encouraging local people to stay away from their cars and brave the fresh air. These all seem like promising proposals to improving life in Leeds.

The highly controversial HS2 plans would play an integral role in the success of the South Bank redevelopment. On 15th November, the government announced the route for the second phase of HS2, which forms a Y shape, with one branch heading to Manchester and the North West, whilst the second targets Leeds and the North East. The proposed new HS2 station in Leeds, South Bank Central, would sit at the heart of the development and bring in a constant stream of train passengers from the South of the country. Whilst HS2 may certainly not be liked by everyone, it seems that for southern Leeds, it would bring clear benefits.

Previous developments to Leeds city centre have had varying levels of success. Whilst the bustling Trinity Centre and recent Victoria Gate development attract huge crowds of visitors every day, Clarence Dock has become somewhat of a ghost town. Clarence Dock is the result of a £250 million regeneration project, opening in 2007. Yet there was a lack of interest and low visitor numbers, which resulted in numerous empty units, leaving it feeling like a forgotten part of the city.

The lack of success with Clarence Dock leads many to fear that South Bank will have the same fate. Will it simply be a repeat of previous mistakes? Planners insist that investing in the Holbeck area will have major benefits across the South of the city. It seems that the overall success of the development will be dependent on how well South Bank is integrated into the wider city, in order to avoid the isolation suffered by Clarence Dock. Interesting times lie ahead for Leeds.

By Alice Green

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